A former Walgreens pharmacist who claims he was fired for reporting Medicare billing fraud at several California stores was awarded $1.24 million by a federal court jury in Fresno on August 19, 2011. According to the Fresno Bee, Sami Mitri was fired in January 2010 after more than 13 years working for the company in various jobs. Walgreens claimed that Mitri was fired for “repeatedly working beyond his scheduled shifts” even after being told to stop at a time when the company was trying to reduce overtime pay, according to the Bee.
Jurors awarded Mitri $88,000 in general damages and $1,155,000 in punitive damages after a nine-day trial. His attorney, Andrew Jones, told the Bee that more than 20 Walgreens stores fraudulently billed the government involving Medicare patients. Mitri learned of the illegal practices by constantly filling in for other pharmacists at multiple Walgreens in the central San Joaquin Valley. He brought the matter to the attention of Walgreens in spring of 2009 before being fired in January 2010, and Jones added that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the alleged swindles.
“The jury sent a message that Walgreens can’t fire a whistle-blower,” Jones told the Bee. “This guy is a hero who came forward and stood up for taxpayers like you and me. He stood up for what is right.”
Whistleblowers have protection under federal law, but it is always a good idea to seek the advice of a lawyer to ensure your safety and advise you on how to handle the situation. If you think you have seen violations of employment law, you should contact one of our highly qualified professionals.
Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorney